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London’s City University has gained funding for a new Centre for Cyber and Security Sciences, which will offer research and consultancy across a range of once-disparate but suddenly important areas of computer security.

The remit of the centre is to bring together experts from a range of areas in an inter-disciplinary way that reflects the changing nature of IT research, focussing on areas such cybercrime and terrorism, cryptography, software security, and cyber-privacy.

Other institutions collaborating on the project include University College London, the University of St Andrews (noted for its expertise on terrorism), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and championed by the Home Office. Total funding has been set at £1.2 million ($1.9 million), of which City University will collect £450,000 as it share.

“As the world moves rapidly and irreversibly towards web-based government, infrastructure, commerce, retail, banking and social activity, we have inadvertently introduced more effective, easier and low cost paths through which societies can be attacked,” said City University’s Dr Muttukrishnan Rajarajan, a lead-academic on the new Centre's roster. 

The theme of the wider implication of It security mentioned by Rajarajan dovetails into the changing nature of IT in the UK’s universities. Where once teaching and research would have covered narrower engineering themes of IT systems, it is now starting to reflect wider social, economic and geo-political worries.

There is also a commercial element to the new Centre. The University undoubtedly has within its far-flung departments a lot of expertise that the outside world will pay to consult. The Centre gives the institution a coherent way to package that knowledge that cuts across old-fashioned departmental lines.

“The University has many specialists in this area with experience of both advising governments and industry and researching the latest trends. The new Centre will coordinate these efforts for the first time and enable us to address a wider range of cyber security threats,” said Rajarajan.

One of the Centre’s first projects will be The Uncertainty of Identity, which plans to look at the thorny issue of how governments can defend the online identity of citizens who are increasingly required to commit personal information to Internet-based services.